- Developer: Beenox
- Publisher: Activision
- Genre: Kart Racing
- Release Date: 22/06/2019
- Platforms: Xbox One, Playstation, Nintendo Switch
- Reviewed on: Xbox One X
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Many of you will likely be reading this wondering how it compares to the 1999 original, and whether it has survived the reboot after 3 generations of consoles have superseded the Playstation console from whence it originated. Unfortunately, I can’t answer that, as in 1999 I was living life as a 19 year old ne’er do well, and between my umpteenth speedrun of Metal Gear Solid and countless hours spent playing Need for Speed, I somehow managed to miss this widely well-received classic. What I can do is lend you a fresh set of eyes, untarnished by nostalgia and the expectation that such sentiment can bring, and hopefully give you an unbiased opinion of the only real competition for kart racing games outside of Nintendo and their Mario Kart franchise.
Where to begin?
Adventure mode is the story mode for the game, and it seemed like a logical starting point for a newcomer like me. You get the option of playing in Classic mode, or in the new Nitro Fueled mode. Classic mode is, as the name suggests, based on the classic game, and has you use the same character throughout all races, with no customisation or difficulty settings. Nitro Fueled allows you to switch whenever you choose from either the starting roster of characters or any others you may have unlocked during play. You can also customise your vehicle, and with what will be a helpful option for many, change the difficulty setting.
I started on Nitro Fueled mode on medium difficulty and soon learned that the game can be brutally difficult straight from the off, compounded by the fact you are still learning the mechanics of the game. You have to win each race to make progression, and there are no gimmies here. There’s no hand-holding, you have to earn each and every victory, with even slight mistakes (or misfortune at the hands of the AIs’ power-up attacks) relegating you to the back of the field. Some races I breezed through in one or two tries, but some of the more challenging circuits had me reaching the double digits as I tried to get the elusive gold medal.
It doesn’t take long to get used to the driving though, with the boosting and drifting systems being easy to learn, and you’ll soon be making steady progress. After you win the first batch of races, you will unlock your first boss race. These are on the same tracks you’ve already raced, but your opponent constantly drops power-ups and has a kart that is quite a lot faster than yours, meaning you have to be tactical with your own power-ups and drive like a boss yourself in order to beat them. The boss battles can feel a bit unbalanced but the satisfaction you get from finally winning makes it worthwhile, assuming you haven’t thrown your controller out of the window by that point.
To add a bit of replayability and extra content to the campaign, there are optional races available after you win each event. CTR Challenges task you with collecting the letters C, T and, you guessed it, R, while still winning the race, whereas Relic Races are essentially time trials with crates to collect scattered around the arena, which reduce your overall time. They’re a fun addition to the game and the relic races are helpful for finding alternative routes round the tracks, although the target times to win are unsurprisingly difficult.
Fun with friends
Once you’ve had your fill of Adventure mode you can jump in to Local Arcade. You can play all of the content here in single player or be joined by friends and family for local multiplayer with up to four players in split screen. Single Race and Cup Race give you access to every track in the game (all 31 of them) regardless of whether you have unlocked them in Adventure, and each track can be played in mirror mode to keep everyone on their toes / frustrate them further. There is also a Battle mode which gives you twelve arenas to play in, with variations of capture the flag, deathmatch style limit battles and crystal collecting. It’s a great way to jump into the game quickly, and I had a lot of fun playing with my other half and kids. With so many tracks and modes available it’s easy to lose hours playing and still not be fatigued with the game. I don’t have many games the whole family can play together, but Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is likely to become our go-to game for quite some time!
There were a few issues with the online multiplayer at launch, but I’m happy to say that it works great now, although I found it hard to find a match in Battle mode. You can jump into matchmaking in either Race or Battle modes and as is customary now, vote for the track. All the matches I tried worked flawlessly, and while I may not be that great, I still had a good time battling through the field and blasting my opponents with power-ups. With no ranking or leaderboards there’s no real progress to make or track but it doesn’t detract from the appeal of the online play, as it is just so much fun.
So… Much… Colour…
Visually the first thing that strikes you is how bright and colourful everything is. The environments are richly detailed and each track is distinct, from icy caverns, underwater tunnels and ancient ruins, to gothic castles and a neon soaked metropolis. I had a look at some screens of the original game for reference, and the tracks have the same layout as before but they are now treated to a sumptuous dose of high resolution textures and beautifully realised backgrounds. It’s a bold visual style but it works really well. Frame rate is capped at 30fps on the Xbox One X, but it’s not an issue and doesn’t hamper the gameplay, with the game running super smooth even in 4 player split screen.
Argh, my ears!
Much like its platforming predecessors, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled has a zany soundtrack. I found the menu music a little jarring after a while but in races the funky background music is well suited to the game and my kids loved it. They have added an option to switch to the original soundtrack which is a nice touch, although I do prefer the new music – synthesizers have come a long way in the last 20 years! The characters will whoop and cheer as they go round, and power-ups all have distinct sound effects for your amusement. It’s all very cutesy, but in the context of the game they’ve done a great job.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a great game. While Adventure mode can be frustratingly difficult at times, the addition of a difficulty setting has negated this somewhat. The additional modes add tonnes of replayability, but where this game really shines is in the split-screen and multiplayer modes. With all of the competitive game types and the wealth of tracks available, it’s perfect for pick up and play sessions with friends and family. The easy to play, difficult to master style of gameplay makes this one of my favourite kart racer games so far and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the kart racing genre.